Thursday, April 30, 2009


I wrote this on Wednesday:

So, after my praise of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, it's interesting that I read this story afterwards:

Starbucks Corporation said net income fell 77 percent in its second quarter offering further proof that consumers are continuing to cut back on everyday luxuries.

The Seattle-based coffee company reported net income of $25 million, or 3 cents a share, compared to $108.7 million, or 15 cents a share, in the year-ago second quarter. Revenue declined 7.6 percent to $ 2.33 billion in the second quarter ended March 29.

Back on January 30, I wrote a post entitled Why Harlan Koch needs to run Starbucks. The thesis of the post is that Starbucks needs someone who is fanatical about coffee, like Colonel Harlan Sanders and Jim Koch were/are fanatical about chicken and beer.

But heck, you might not even need a fanatic. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf didn't bowl me over with their superior dedication to coffee.

But they did have free wi-fi, with no hassle. I just wrote down the five-digit code that was on their TV display board, and I was off and running. Compare that with what Starbucks puts you through to get a free wi-fi connection:

Complimentary Wi-Fi for Starbucks customers When you register your Starbucks Card and use it at least once a month, you'll receive two consecutive hours a day of complimentary Wi-Fi, courtesy of AT&T.

Complimentary Wi-Fi for AT&T DSL customers AT&Ts more than 12 million DSL customers already qualify for free Wi-Fi at their neighborhood Starbucks.

OK, there's a Starbucks on one corner, a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on the other, you're not an AT&T DSL subscriber (most of us aren't), and you don't have a registered Starbucks card that you've used in the past month (most of us don't). Where are you going to go?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Worthless e-mail solicitation of the day

I - and you - could probably make "Worthless e-mail solicitation of the day" into a daily feature, based upon all of the cold call e-mails that we get that pretend to be personal, but instead betray the fact that the solicitor has no idea who he/she has contacted.

I'm going to pick on two things in this particular solicitation.

I did research on your website...

While I praise Samantha for saying that she did research on my website, I have the sneaking suspicion that she didn't. You see, she sent it to the e-mail address for my former employer - the one that sold the division off almost a month ago. While my former employer is being nice enough to forward my e-mails for a while, the former employer's website very clearly states that my division is now owned by another company. So I don't think she learned a lot there.

Please send me your Contact details and Target criteria...

This is a legitimate question - except for the fact that Samantha neglected to send me any contact details for herself. Sure I know her first name, her last name, and her e-mail address, but she didn't provide me with her telephone number, her own address, or even the name of her company.

This is especially ironic, inasmuch as she represents herself as an expert in E-mail marketing, and wants to have a quick call with me.

Oh, and the "Contact details and Target criteria" (what's with the noun capitalization? Is she German?) that she wanted were "Industry Vertical," "Job Title," "Revenue Size," and "Geography."

Perhaps I should send her the details for Empoprises, rather than the details for my employer. I know that this is highly prized information, but I am about to answer Samantha's four questions for Empoprises:

Business, Inland Empire, Music, NTN Buzztime

I'm the CTO and the CEO and the Chairman and the head janitor!

What's that?

If the space station gets Internet, then I guess my geography is extraterrestrial.

So let's see Samantha design an e-mail - whoops, I mean an E-mail - campaign around that highly prized information. Now what's her phone number?

(E-mail trashed without responding.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An (unofficial) explanation for the Flannel/NOOMA anonymity

I apologize for not sharing these tweets before, but I don't visit my Twitter account as regularly as I visit some of my other accounts.

@empoprises just read ur blog postings about Flannel and NOOMA. i do not speak for the org, but our reticence to name names is no accident

@empoprises when you say "an attempt to focus on Jesus Christ rather than the messengers" ... that's why

For context, you may want to visit my earlier post, More traditional evangelism, and anonymity (Flannel/NOOMA).

Can the beta FriendFeed's new "embed" feature be used to share private conversations?

You tell me.

So how can the embedding feature in FriendFeed beta be used?

I am not trendy, so I'm only getting to a new beta FriendFeed feature about a week after everyone else got to it. To see those who came before me, take a look at Ffundercats Episode 26 (which not only discussed embedding in the audio, but demonstrated editing in the post) and Anika Malone's post about her daughter's birthday.

So here's my contribution to the madness - a FriendFeed thread that I started for the express purpose of trying this feature out. So let's see how Blogger, Disqus, and FriendFeed can all work together to make a very tightly wound clump of spaghetti.



Your opinion of CNN is probably colored by your perception of the network. I hang with a number of right-of-center folks, many of whom believe that CNN is bringing the Communist Manifesto to middle America. (I don't have with the extreme-right-of-center folks who believe that Fox News Channel is bringing the Communist Manifesto to middle America.) There are those on the left who think that CNN is the voice of the Establishment and an enemy of true democracy. And there are those outside of our traditional political spectrum who think other thoughts - I'm sure that there are elements in the Middle East, for example, who think that CNN is a tool of the satanic American government and the Zionist world conspiracy.

But CNN has a different opinion of itself, according to the New York Times (which is probably held in the same regard as CNN by the groups listed above):

CNN [is] a network whose strategy is to steer the middle course in its news coverage. CNN’s competitors have been finding more success pounding away at those poles — at least during prime time.

The result? CNN often occupies third place, or even fourth place, behind other cable news players:
  • Fox News Channel, which the Times characterizes as "the voice of disaffected conservatives."

  • MSNBC, which "has tried to mirror Fox’s success by steering to the left."

  • CNN's own Headline News, which I quit watching after seeing Nancy Grace on its airwaves. Grace makes me wish for the reserved wisdom of Geraldo Rivera.
Specific numbers:

In March, CNN averaged 328,000 viewers in prime time among the audience that most news advertisers seek: viewers aged 25 to 54. Fox doubled that with 628,000. MSNBC averaged 375,000.

In April, CNN has been fourth. Fox has 668,000 viewers; MSNBC has 300,000; and CNN has 271,000. HLN has 277,000.

Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, claims that cable networks don't need to report straight news:

“The people who watch these channels are news junkies. They’ve already had access to the headlines all day long on the Internet. In prime time you’ve got to stand out and make a splash.”

If Griffin is right, what does this mean?

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm a movie star! And you can be too, thanks to National CineMedia

I got a snail mailing that caught my attention with the picture on front, depicting me as a superhero:

OK, maybe they got the hair color wrong...

But if you read the message, go to the website, and explore, you end up at the page that describes the "CineMeetings" division of National CineMedia:

CineMeetings & Events, a division of National CineMedia, accommodates clients' individual needs in providing meetings and events throughout the largest and most sophisticated theatre network in the world. Clients of CineMeetings & Events have access to a network of more than a thousand theaters nationwide, including AMC Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, Edwards Theatres, Georgia Theatre Company, Regal Cinemas, and United Artist Theatres.

With CineMeetings & Events on your side, you can enhance the educational and entertainment value of your presentation with the big screen, stadium seating, high-resolution digital projection and crystal clear audio. From a single-site meeting to an event that encompasses hundreds of locations, CineMeetings & Events provides centralized event management including booking, event coordination and execution, technical support, promotional tools, advanced audio/visual technologies, plus a suite of catering services.

More here.

While I don't have a personal corporate need to rent out multiple movie theaters to give a presentation, the idea is intriguing, at least for domestic businesses. It's a win for the theaters if the meetings are held during the morning hours when movies are not shown, and may also be lucrative during the afternoon hours.

However, this seems to lend itself better to some events than to others. I can watch a webcast on my computer, which involves no travel time (and I can buy popcorn from the machines in the cafeteria if I so desire). But a meeting in a movie theater would be ideal for a capital E Event where you want to bring people together and create a sense of shared excitement.

If Oracle acquires so many companies that it outgrows San Francisco and Las Vegas, perhaps Larry Ellison can give his keynote address via movie theaters.

Why can't we all just count along?

I was researching a music parody post that will probably appear later in the week, and ended up doing a Google search for the words "types of dolphins." And I was surprised at what I found:

What are the 32 types of dolphins?

There are two major types of dolphins: oceanic dolphins and river dolphins. Within each of these groups there are thought to be around 40 different dolphin species.

There are 33 different types of marine dolphins, 4 types of river dolphins and 6 types of porpoises.

But an interesting fact is that there are over 45 types of dolphins.

I'm not a biologist, so I'm not sure why there's such a great divergence in these counts.

But bear this in mind when you hear an assertion that a fact of business is an accepted truth. And if you don't believe me, answer this question - how long should a business lunch last?

When anonymity is a virtue

Before you read this post, there are two other posts you may want to read.

First, read Jake Kuramoto's April 23 post about anonymous commenting, which begins by briefly touching upon Jake's view on online anonymity in general:

If you read here, you probably know I’m against anonymous commenting and generally against anonymity online.

If you know me IRL, you’ll understand this is part of who I am.

To call me direct is accurate, if not an understatement in many cases. I’m blunt and unedited and not very good at pretending. I learned long ago that even when I don’t speak, my face speaks for me. So, I figured why not add words to it.

Second, read the first of my two April 26 posts on Flannel and NOOMA, which notes that Flannel's website doesn't explicitly identify the folks behind Flannel. I wondered why:

Perhaps this attempt to focus on Jesus Christ rather than the messengers. Perhaps this is an attempt to boost the Flannel and NOOMA brands. Perhaps it' marketing ploy.

After I wrote that post, I was thinking that I might want to find a company which makes a virtue out of lack of disclosure. In other words, a company that went against the grain of many social media experts who loudly assert that disclosure is paramount, and that people want to deal with known people rather than anonymous "customer service" types. Inspector 7 belongs on our t-shirts, not our computer monitors.

Or maybe not. Later on Sunday, I ran across this New York Times article: connects its users with random, anonymous strangers for a private, real-time chat. The site, which started last month, was developed by Leif K-Brooks, an 18-year-old amateur Web programmer and high school student in Vermont who was worried that people’s Web interactions had “become stagnant.”

“You can’t learn anything from someone exactly like you,” said Mr. K-Brooks. “The goal was to create a new kind of association: anonymous interaction with a stranger that complements existing social sites and helps people broaden their horizons.”

Now I'll grant that Omegle deals with a different set of needs - you're not going to buy a video, or a car, or an IRL sexual encounter from someone on Omegle. But at the same time that Facebook won't let the "Ontario Emperors" of the world onto their services, you're going to have Omegles that will cater to the needs of those who don't want to be known.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Autostart and Steve Carr (Flannel/NOOMA)

So I finished my previous post and checked it out to make sure the code was working. And boy, was it working, since the embedded video immediately started playing. Because of my personal preferences, I changed the "autostart" setting to "false," so that people who visit my main blog page over the next few weeks aren't hearing the trailer audio over and over again. (Frankly, autoplay is so 1990's/20th century, though there are those who disagree with me.)

Anyway, I kept on reading, and found an interview with Steve Carr in Collide Magazine. You'll recall that he was identified in a buried-away newsletter as the Executive Director of Flannel. Carr talked about the beginnings of NOOMA, Rob Bell's relationship with the firm, and other topics.

About eight years ago we started the non-profit company, Flannel, which created NOOMA. The concept of what NOOMA films have become actually took years to develop. Rob Bell and two friends began to explore how to take Rob's creative way of teaching and communicating and share that with people on a bigger scale....After many months of discussions...the first NOOMA, "Rain," began filming on September 11, 2001. The first three films were released in November of 2002 and came on really cool white VHS tapes with “NOOMA” in blue lettering....

Rob loves the creative process. He spends his time creating teachings. Some of these teachings become sermons, some entire books, some live performances, and some NOOMAs. Sometimes there is overlap....In creating a NOOMA, the words are Rob's. Rob comes up with a teaching he wants to share and that becomes the starting point.

The film itself is another process entirely. Each NOOMA has a visual story that takes place around the words. A team of people develops the visual story, and Rob is typically not involved in this part of the process. A team puts together the film concept, and Rob shows up on set and almost always delivers his words flawlessly. It really is something to watch.

Read the whole interview here.

More traditional evangelism, and anonymity (Flannel/NOOMA)

During today's sermon at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church (a sermon entitled "Uncertainty Can Be Valuable," the second in a six-part series), a short film was shown that is entitled "Rain".

NOOMA Rain | 001 Rob Bell

Things don't always work out the way we want them to, or the way we think they will. Sometimes we don't even see it coming. We get hit with some form of pain out of nowhere leaving us feeling desperate and helpless. That's the way life is. Still, it makes us wonder how God can let these things happen to us. How God can just stand by and watch us suffer. Where is God when it really hurts? Maybe God is actually closer to us than we think. Maybe it's when we're in these situations, where everything seems to be falling apart, that God gets an opportunity to remind us of how much he really loves us.

Here is a trailer:

Since I no longer have a religion blog any more (I used to), I'll concentrate on the company that produced this and other films.

Flannel is the nonprofit behind the NOOMA films. We are a group of people committed to giving everyone a fresh look at the teachings of Jesus. We're just a small company that is donor-supported and loved. We are not affiliated with any church, denomination, religious organization, or religious movement.

No particular names are associated with Flannel (at least that I could find). I guess one could argue that the anonymity helps to focus the attention on Jesus Christ rather than the human purveyor of the messages, but anonymity often raises questions in some people.

So, in the spirit of 1 John 4:1, I continued to search. And a whois search at least showed a city and address:

Registrant ID:DYNDNS328753
Registrant Name:Flannel Webmaster
Registrant Organization:Flannel
Registrant Street1:25 Ionia Ave SW
Registrant Street2:Suite 400
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Grand Rapids
Registrant State/Province:MI
Registrant Postal Code:49503
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.6167767775
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:+1.6167767765
Registrant FAX Ext.:

But the "Rob Bell" mention (Trace's dad) paid off, when I found this post in a blog called Church Marketing Sucks (you see, it's not only the secular world that has problems with marketing).

Rob Bell founded Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich. while in his 20s and the church exploded, bringing in over 1,000 people the first day. All of that without any "marketing" as Bell would say, because it makes him sick....Bell also teaches in the Nooma series of short films that can be used in church services or small groups. You could also describe Bell with that hard to define, catch-all emergent label—so you can take that however you like.

But another hint as to the mysterious Flannelers was provided in a software consulting firm's news release:

Grand Rapids, Michigan – August 24, 2006 – CQL, Incorporated, a leader in software development consulting and a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, announced the release of a new public interface for the viewing and purchase of faith-based NOOMAs (

NOOMAs are short, faith-based films, distributed by FLANNEL, LLC, and are released approximately three times per year. They are available in DVD format and come with optional discussion books. The name NOOMA is an English phonetic spelling of the Greek word pneuma, which is commonly translated to “spirit” or “breath.”

“These NOOMAs are sold around the world through an interface that was developed by CQL,” stated Mark Lardieri, President of CQL. “We’ve been very proud to have a part in spreading these faith-based messages throughout the world.”

CQL created a new system that would allow the FLANNEL staff to easily control the content, media, and production information associated with the NOOMAs. This effort has greatly helped Flannel improve the management of the NOOMA process. Additionally, the system has advanced the efficiency of the distribution center to allow the staff to streamline their processes.

“CQL was an important partner in creating a sophisticated delivery mechanism for these important spiritual messages,” said Debbi Blackport of FLANNEL.

Blackport's name led me back to Flannel, and to a newsletter that listed a fairly complete staff roster:

Carolyn Baas, Office Assistant*
Charity Barton McClure, Development Director
Dan Klyn, Information Architect
Debbi Blackport, Executive Assistant
Jessica Ophoff, Customer Service*
Joe Elmendorf, Interactive Developer
Joel Swierenga, Post Production Manager
Jon Middel, Designer
Jordan Ophoff, Customer Service Manager
Julie Bishop, Accounting*
Kathy Bowers, Accounting*
Leslie Mosher, Production Director
Mark Baas, Creative Director
Seth Herman, Senior Designer
Steve Carr, Executive Director
* Part-time staff

Yet I couldn't find a way to navigate to this newsletter from the website itself - just odd little tidbits here and there, such as this page referred to "our development director" without naming said director (although the embedded link mentioned a "charity").

Perhaps this is, as I said earlier, an attempt to focus on Jesus Christ rather than the messengers. Perhaps this is an attempt to boost the Flannel and NOOMA brands. Perhaps it' marketing ploy. And perhaps it just strikes me as odd because I'm in a reading circle that continuously emphasizes putting a personal face on your brand.

But for me, it's still weird to watch a guy walking through the forest while having no idea who's behind the camera.



Saturday, April 25, 2009

Business evangelism, KMET, and reconsidering In-N-Out University yet again

You may recall my April 13 post on In-N-Out University, partially sourced from a BusinessWeek article. Well, BusinessWeek has mentioned the university again:

According to William Martin, who devised the training curriculum for In-N-Out University, the Snyders and the rest of the chain's highest echelon were definitely conscious of the mystique that had developed around In-N-Out. "They were all aware of it, and they loved it," he said. "But they had no explanation for it."

But the article isn't about In-N-Out University; it's about the ways in which In-N-Out customers take their own initiative to spread the word about the brand. For the last quarter century, we have borrowed from Apple to term this "evangelizing." Considering the Snyders' religious beliefs, the term may be appropriate.

But In-N-Out isn't the only El-Lay institution that inspires passionate fans. I rarely see them any more, but there was a time when I would see all sorts of upside-down bumper stickers with the letters "KMET" - long after the radio station had disappeared. Dave:

Launched in 1968, arguably the finest year music has and will ever witness, KMET was different from other stations at the time. Playing thirteen-minute long prog-rock songs interspersed with political observations about Vietnam, Nixon, and anything else the DJs chose to, The Mighty Met rallied an army of loyal listeners who proudly displayed their "whoo-ya" bumper stickers upside-down (just like the billboards did). A KMET staple every Sunday night was Dr. Demento - a bizarre top-hat wearing prankster who played songs like "Pico & Sepulveda", "Dead Puppies Aren't Much Fun", "Fish Heads", "Kinko, the Kid-loving Clown", and "I'm My Own Grandpaw". If you ever wonder why people who were teenagers in the late '70s are a little mental, Dr. Demento is the most likely culprit.

And as one of the "little mental" people (but not a KMET listener), I am proud to note that Dr. Demento graduated from Reed College (unlike Steve Jobs, who didn't graduate). But I digress.

I had forgotten what happened to KMET, but it probably serves to illustrate better than anything else the transitory nature of radio.

the valiant blarings of the "Mighty Met" - classic rock when all rock was classic - was demolished and replaced by the Valium dribblings of "new age" smooth jazz station "The Wave". Fans at the time called it the "Valentine's Day Massacre" and indeed it was a brutal shock.

"The Wave" is still around today. As far as I know, no one displays "The Wave" bumper stickers upside down.

Friday, April 24, 2009

How will I oppose traffic calming obstructions now?

I read the news yesterday (oh boy) from Duncan Riley at the Inquisitr:

Yahoo has announced that is will be closing Geocities, the web page hosting service it acquired in 1999 for $3.57 billion.

Geocities initially launched in 1994 as BHI, later adopting the Geocities name in December 1995. Geocities wasn’t the first free web hosting service, but for a stretch of time during the first dot com boom, it became the biggest.

Riley questions the timing of the move:

Remarkably perhaps, Geocities still has traffic today. Alexa ranks it as the 150th most popular site online, amazing for a service most people have long forgotten. Why Yahoo then would seek to shut it down is a mystery; it’s not as if we got to this point yesterday, and there’s still some very nice traffic for the site. It’s a shame that Yahoo isn’t trying to offload it instead, because this is a brand that in the right hands could fly again.

Actually, it's not too much of a mystery - when a company is hurting, they will offload all sorts of businesses. (And that's all I'll say about THAT.)

So, how many of you have a Geocities site? It turns out that I have one, which I started in 2003 and maintained until 2007. Its title? "Oppose Traffic Calming Obstructions" - probably my biggest political passion (Korea schmorea).

While the site has a Blogspot component, the majority of the site is hosted on Geocities. The home page carries my passionate political message:

Traffic calming is the new craze that threatens the lives of your family and friends. Oppose it.

The "Why" page goes into greater detail on the opposition, using arguments from the National Motorists Association. Here's a sample:

Traffic obstruction devices:

A. Can increase response time for emergency vehicles. When seconds matter, having to slow to pass over speed bumps and humps or navigate narrow roadways can mean the difference between life and death, or the loss of one's home. The fact that some of these devices can seriously damage emergency vehicles and other vehicles along the roadway is also a concern.

And there are many more. And yes, I know that this is turning into more of a political post than a business post, but permit me to continue - I'm going to lose all of this material, so I'm recording it now.

Another thing that will disappear is my musical contribution to the fight against traffic calming obstructions. As you may know, I was a not-so-famous 20th century musical artist until the itself disappeared a few years ago. One of the last songs that I published on the web was "Non Sequitur 15," the only Ontario Emperor song that included vocals of any kind. The complete lyrics:

Oppose traffic calming in Ontario California

These lyrics were repeated several times over in a 48-second long attempt to galvanize local forces into fierce opposition to traffic calming, yet the obstructions still exist today, which shows you the extent of my political power. (John Lennon could have done it.)

Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for you, this song will not be lost to the masses when Geocities goes away, because I uploaded the song to a few months ago.

Back to Yahoo. What are the options for Geocities users? According to Yahoo, there's only one:

Does Yahoo! offer another free hosting service?

No, Yahoo! does not offer another free hosting service. Instead we recommend our award-winning Yahoo! Web Hosting service, which includes a personalized domain name (such as and matching email, new site building tools, unlimited disk space and bandwidth, premium customer support, and more.

But while I'm sad about the whole thing, there are others, such as Helen Sventitsky, who are ecstatic:

Actually, THANK GOD! This embarrassing site there that I could NOT get rid of for the life of me will be gone!

Helen has not yet revealed the location of this embarrassing site, but if you do find it, I strongly encourage you to post its URL to the comments, before the site is confined to the wayback machine.

P.S. Since I've already talked about politics, I might as well talk about music. Helen is definitely NOT embarrassed about her music; her page is here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

All corporate takeovers are local

Tip O'Neill was fond is saying "All politics is local," and you can see that when the most committed "get out of Iraq" Representative or Senator suddenly changes his or her tune when Defense Department reductions result in the closure of a plant in his/her district.

There are similar local effects with private enterprise initiatives. Oracle and Sun may be based in California, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be based in Massachusetts, but MIT's Technology Review blog talks about Oracle and Sun operations in Colorado:

[A]cquisitions are always complex and this one isn’t expected to close until sometime this summer. However, given the existing presence of both companies in Colorado, I expect there will be additional focus on the appropriate integration dynamics. While they will likely include some rationalization of people and facilities, I expect it will be healthy for the long term growth of Colorado as a technology center, especially given the positive experiences each company has had with large workforces in Colorado.

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What's happening to my friend Tom?

I haven't been on MySpace much lately - not because of a dislike of MySpace itself, but more because many of the people that were my friends on MySpace - and many that were not - are now on Facebook. Well, perhaps if I'm honest with myself, I do have a dislike of some things in MySpace, most importantly the ability to customize your homepage until it is an unreadable mess.

But I digress. Many of you have had a MySpace account at one time or another, so we all have one thing in common - our friend Tom.

Tom was the first friend that we ever had on MySpace. We didn't know a lot about Tom, and in fact we didn't even know how old he was, but he seemed to be a nice guy, and he'd always pass on messages to all of his friends, such as tips on new music and warnings about compromising the security of your account.

In short, Tom was, and probably still is, a pretty neat guy.

Well, our friend Tom was in the paper. Well, actually it's not a paper any more, it's more like electronic stuff, or at least that's where I saw the story. You see, Tom and his friend Chris are going to be doing some different things because their friend Jonathan said that Tom and Chris should - well, let's let the PR flack tell the story:

Los Angeles, CA, April 22, 2009 - MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe and News Corporation’s Chief Digital Officer Jonathan Miller, announced today that, by mutual agreement, Mr. DeWolfe will not be renewing his contract and will be stepping down in the near future. Mr. DeWolfe will continue to serve on the board of MySpace China and will be a strategic advisor to the Company.

Additionally, Mr. Miller announced that he was in discussions with Tom Anderson, MySpace’s president, about Mr. Anderson assuming a new role in the organization.

That news was followed by a lot of things that all of the people said. Actually, they didn't really say them; someone else wrote them up and pretended that Jonathan and the others said them. Here's what Tom supposedly said:

“From the very beginning, our driving passion has been simple - to create and foster a platform where people across the globe can not only meet and interact, but share music, videos, thoughts and ideas,” said Mr. Anderson. I look forward to working with Jon. I love this business, and look forward to its next chapter.”

Well, when you hear some distressing news, the best thing to do is to turn to a friend. So I went to Tom's profile, and it looks like he's logged on, but he hasn't said anything in a few days.


are you using "hide codes" to hide your top friends or comments? try profile 2.0, which lets you hide any module without funky codes.. :-)
Mood: chill chillat 9:08 PM Apr 13

33 / Male
Los Angeles, California, US
Last Login: 4/22/2009

Man, I hope Tom isn't feeling bad and stuff. Perhaps I ought to poke - never mind...

Twitter, its power users, and its third party developers, 11 months later

Remember this?

This was an interview that was conducted on May 30, 2008 by Robert Scoble and Jesse Stay, who interviewed Evan Williams and Biz Stone. Stay recently referenced the interview in a tweet that compared this interview to Oprah's interview of Williams (which I still haven't seen).

In the ensuing FriendFeed discussion, I noted that I couldn't really remember the specifics of the interview, and that I wanted to look it up again. But to understand the interview, you have to look at some of the circumstances surrounding the interview.

The obvious place to start is a post in the Twitter developer blog, but that blog apparently no longer exists; when I tried to go to the post, I ended up at a wiki instead. So I'm going to rely on MG Siegler's summary of the blog post, which included a question.

charles asks if there’s anything users can do to lighten our load.

In a comment on one of my own blog posts, Charles clarified what he was asking.

For clarification, my original question was intended to elicit some indication of which methods of accessing Twitter caused the heaviest impact and, by extension, suggest that those features be throttled -- and not necessarily by user/community voluntary behavior. I was just being polite; as in, "we" (the users) might be willing to live with occasionally reduced functionality, if it means the service would stay up while "they" (Twitter's developers) continue to repair and re-build it. I don't know if my question indeed prompted them to consider throttling the service, but clearly that's what they have done and it didn't happen until after I posed the question. And, with some user grumbling, it does appear to be working. Mission accomplished.

That was written afterwards, but the real brouhaha started when Twitter's Alex Payne responded to Charles' question:

The events that hit our system the hardest are generally when “popular” users - that is, users with large numbers of followers and people they’re following - perform a number of actions in rapid succession. This usually results in a number of big queries that pile up in our database(s). Not running scripts to follow thousands of users at a time would be a help, but that’s behavior we have to limit on our side.

So Siegler wrote the post Twitter: Don’t blame Ruby, blame Scoble, Scoble vented and wrote, and eventually Scoble was invited to come to the Twitter offices to hash things out. Scoble brought along Jesse Stay, so when he ended up videotaping the session, Stay appeared also.

Why was Jesse Stay there? Well, aside from the fact that he was supposed to have lunch with Scoble before the Twitter call intervened, Stay had some concerns of his own - concerns that he expressed in a blog post a couple of weeks after the interview:

I’ve been following various development mailing lists lately, and I’m seeing a trend of developers starting to bail on Twitter. This is a scary thought, because when the developers bail, so will the users....

I’m very worried for Twitter. As more developers jump ship and work on other platforms such as Plurk and FriendFeed (which really isn’t a direct competitor to Twitter), this great tool is going to be left in the dust with no new development and large networks of people moving elsewhere. Twitter’s largest traffic comes from the API itself, and as that traffic dies down, so will Twitter. Imagine, for instance, if Seesmic were to stop development on Twhirl due to the costs associated with keeping up with API flaws? That would be quite a chunk of Twitter’s users being forced over to the other Twhirl clients, FriendFeed and Seesmic itself - it’s such an easy transition were Twitter support to be dropped! What happens when Twhirl begins supporting Plurk?

Twitter needs to do something, and they need to do it fast. I agree they need to get their infrastructure in place, but before even doing that they really need to put every hack possible in place to keep the API up, keep it working, and work with the developers to ensure they are staying happy. A large revolution is about to take place, and I’m afraid it won’t be pretty.

OK, that's ancient history. And if you want to see more, see Stay's post-interview post, another Jesse Stay post on the API, and (if you're a real glutton for punishment) my four various posts from that period.

But where are we now?

First, let's look at the issues surrounding users with large numbers of followers. Twitter has made improvements to its system, which is good because some of the follower counts today dwarf anything that was prevalent 11 months ago. On that same Oprah interview, Oprah talked to Ashton Kutcher, who now has over 1 million followers. People are having follower races to save lives - what would have happened if that had been staged in the spring of 2008 instead of the spring of 2009?

But while Twitter is now robust enough to handle people with over a million followers, the API has - well, let's let Jesse Stay tell the tale:

[About a year ago] I started SocialToo, a service that originally we built around the auto-follow concept....Twitter, at the time, was the easiest solution to build around, and made the most sense for where we had started so I figured we had to make what we did with it perfect. Here we are, one year later, and I’m still trying to make it work perfect, but not because our code sucks - it’s because Twitter keeps changing their system, and the rules that go with it!

[On April 21] Twitter pulled the rug out from under its developers once more by, with absolutely no notice, announcing that (paraphrased, in my words) since their way was the right way, they were discouraging auto-following, and would only allow a user to follow 1,000 people per day. What Twitter neglected was that, while not many, myself and others were building business plans around the users that would need this. A little notice would have been helpful, but is very consistent with the way developers have been treated over the past year or more by Twitter.

Louis Gray looked at people with large numbers of followers and the auto-follow concept:

Assuming Ashton Kutcher and others were to follow Twitter's rule to only follow 1,000 new accounts a day, it would take Ashton 3 years to follow all that follow him, assuming no more new users found his account interesting. It seems Twitter would prefer that these celebrity accounts only follow, say... 93 as Ashton does, rather than the nearly 400,000 Britney Spears follows, which I would guess would be even higher if it weren't for Twitter's API troubles.

Now I realize that I advanced the view that things are better in an early April comment on Stay's blog, but I think I'll have to pull a Jim Bakker on that one - I was wrong.

Assume the worst-case scenario in which all the developers bail on Twitter, the auto follow concept continues to be denigrated, and famous people continue to get million-plus follower counts. In effect, this means that Twitter becomes more of a one-way broadcast medium rather than a two-way communication platform.

Or maybe it's always been that way, and my perceptions have colored me. When you tweet your response to the question "What are you doing?" there's no guarantee that anyone's listening. And why talk about two-way communication when most people prefer one-way reading rather than two-way discussion anyway?

Will Pizza Hut's twintern solve image problems, or contribute to them?

The story, as reported in the New York Times, sounds intriguing. Pizza Hut is employing "twinterns" for the summer to not only report on Pizza Hut activities via Twitter (oh no! a sponsored tweet!), but to serve as a line of defense should some crisis (such as the Domino's crisis) arise.

“Realistically, because there are these tools out in the marketplace, and they have a multiplier effect, to have us looking and monitoring this in a more dedicated fashion makes sense for us,” [marcom VP] Mr. [Bob] Kraut said. “Once there are a lot of people using any form of media, large advertisers such as Pizza Hut gravitate towards it.”

Mitch Wagner shared this CNET item:

[H]ow can one not admire rival restaurant chain Pizza Hut? Unbowed and uncowed by the social media difficulties Domino's experienced with their booger video, Pizza Hut is looking for a Twittering intern.

Yes, someone who can take those 140 characters and turn them into a positive pizza life force.

Frank Reed (H/T Mickey Mellen) has a question:

[F]irst who is researching their pizza in social media circles and what influence can social media have on that choice? Also, even if you spend way too much time in 140 character land (or any social media for that matter) just how much are you willing to hear from Pizza Hut?

But I have a more basic question. Now I'll grant that all of these stories are relatively short ones that don't delve into a lot of detail, and I'll also grant that Pizza Hut has some corporate secrets that they don't want to share with their rivals. But I have a question: how will Pizza Hut manage the twintern output so that it is consistent with the corporate message?

People always think of a company as a single company, with a single voice. But that is patently untrue, at least in Western society. In truth, a company consists of tens, or hundreds, or thousands, or millions of people, each of whom has their own voice. If you're lucky, you can get all the voices to say the same thing.

I promised that I'd tell this story some time ago, but never got around to it. I know a person with a disability, and this person requires special accommodations when visiting a major theme park located in Anaheim, California. For several years, this person would go to a building in the "Main Street" area of said park and ask for a special pass. The park employee would look up the details in the computer system and issue the pass.

Well, the person went to the park a few weeks ago to follow the same procedure, and the park employee that she encountered informed the person that (a) there was a better alternative to the special pass that the person had been getting for the past several years, (b) there was no such record in the computer system, and (c) no one at the park would ever put any such record in the computer system.

Item (a) was actually really really good news, but the whole experience was soured because of items (b) and (c), which basically stated that the service that the person had been receiving for the last several years didn't happen.

To top things off, the person returned to the park on another day. The park employee on duty that day confirmed item (a) - oh, and by the way, the employee found the record in the system that the previous employee swore was not there.

So you can see how two different representatives of the same company - a company that is noted for its superior customer service - could convey two different messages.

So, what does this have to do with Pizza Hut? Namely, this - when the twintern or twinterns get hired, some training is going to have to go on. There will be a need for the twintern(s) to respond quickly if something adverse happens, and the correct message will have to be tweeted.

Is Pizza Hut prepared to do this? We don't know. In the best case, they are. In the worst case, someone has decided that a Twitter presence would be really cool, but hasn't thought through the ramifications of how the Twitter account needs to be integrated with Pizza Hut's corporate message.

Actually, that's not the worst case. The worst case would be if Pizza Hut hired Michael Setzer and Kristy Hammonds as the twinterns. If that happened, then no amount of training could guard against a catastrophe.

P.S. If you read my previous post in which I said that I was going to tell my Disney story, you'll recall that I said:

I've been thinking about Disney lately - especially about a personal link between Disney behavior and Amazon behavior, but I still have to write that post.

So what's the link between Disney behavior and Amazon behavior? Just this - some of those that objected to the mixed messages that Amazon issued over that fateful weekend were arguing that Amazon should have had a consistent message. They're right, but the fact that a corporation issued three (or was it four?) different messages over the course of the controversy is not surprising. In fact, when you remember that Amazon consists of a bunch of different people, and that they were mostly home for the weekend, the fact that uncoordinated messages came out is entirely understandable. Let's hope that Amazon - and Pizza Hut - take the necessary steps to ensure that thousands of people are singing approximately the same tune.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Changes to Sunoracle enterprise operating system support?

All of your leading hardware manufacturers offer their enterprise computers with a variety of operating systems. Hewlett Packard's ProLiant servers support a variety of operating systems, including Windows (2008, 2003, 2000), Linux (Red Hat, Novell SUSE, Oracle Enterprise Linux), and Solaris. Dell offers similar choices (except that I couldn't find Oracle Enterprise Linux on the Dell website.) IBM also supports a variety of operating system, including Windows, Linux (Red Hat, Novell SUSE, Oracle Enterprise Linux), and of course AIX.

So what about Sun? I couldn't find any nice neat summary for Sun's server support, so I chose a server at random - in this case, the Sun Fire X2200 M2 Server - to see what it supported. Based upon my two seconds of experience with this server, I can tell you that it's a 64-bit server that can be placed in a computing cluster, supports AMD Quad-Core processors, and can support up to 64 GB of memory. In other words, JezzBall will REALLY fly on this thing.

So what operating systems does my new favorite computer support? Solaris, both Red Hat and SUSE (no Oracle explicitly listed), Windows, and Ubuntu.

Assuming that Oracle's acquisition of Sun is successful, one would expect that Oracle Enterprise Linux may begin to pop up on Sun servers. Or perhaps not:

With Sun in tow, Oracle will now finally have its own operating system with Solaris, instead of just its own Oracle Enterprise Linux (which is based on Red Hat).

So should Oracle re-brand the Sun software as Oracle Enterprise Solaris? And would the Offshore Engineering Society bark about the name?

And what in the heck is Sunoracle going to do with Ubuntu? Bundle it with MySQL for a complete solution?

Firefox wisdom (Oracle and Microsoft)

In the midst of playing stupid URL tricks, I tried to go to in a Firefox web browser.

I got the following error message:

Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.


Why do innovators hate innovation?


We hate it.

For all of our talk of doing new things in new ways, and my country's recent adoption of "change" as policy, we hate change. I certainly include myself in this category, and there are others. Michael (Monty) Widenius got an early morning phone call on Monday:

Tonight at 4:30 AM, USA Pacific time, my phone started to ring; it was a call from a Sun employee saying that Oracle has bought Sun and he wanted to join Monty Program Ab.

Why did the Sun employee decide that he wanted to change jobs? Because he wanted to head toward something familiar, Monty Program Ab, rather than something unknown, Oracle.

With little effort we can think of countless other examples of technologists who like things just the way they are. There are people who hate the FriendFeed beta and prefer the shiny old toy to the shiny new one. There are people who hate Twitter because of the people who recently joined the service; in their point of view, if you make your living in front of a TV camera, you should be banned from Twitter.

You certainly find resistance to change outside of technology communities - I didn't even bother to mention the howls that occur every time Facebook changes its user interface - but in some respect one would think that the technology community would be more receptive to change.

Of course, one can argue that the status quo is good and a change to it is bad. Jeff Jarvis does not like change for change's sake:

Change for the sake of change is meaningless and even destructive. The communists made change for change's sake a political [philosophy] and see where that got them. Change on its own is an empty word....

But there are times - and good people can argue about this - where people will claim that change is bad just because they don't want to undergo change. looks at the phenomenon:

Resistance to change is the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive that a change that is occurring as a threat to them.

Key words here are 'perceive' and 'threat'. The threat need not be real or large for resistance to occur.

Of course we can make change less threatening. Larry Ellison can stand up and say that he respects MySQL and wants to preserve the community. @ev can remind people that you don't have to follow @oprah, and that you can continue to follow [insert tech name here] just like you always have.

Change management, preparation for change, and related activities are important. And I suspect that I'll have a little more to say about this some time today.

Although the timing

A sampling of what others are saying about the Oracle-Sun deal


You've heard enough of my blabber, so let's see what others are saying.

Brian "Bex" Huff said a lot, but I'm just going to concentrate on one thing that he said:

Oracle now owns at least 5 portals, and at least 4 identity management solutions... unlike past acquisitions, existing Oracle product lines are going to have to justify themselves against free competitors.

Tom Grant also said a lot (heck, everyone's saying a lot; this is my fourth post on the topic), so I'll again concentrate on one item:

Remember when Oracle announced its intention to buy Peoplesoft, and everyone acted as though Viking longships would soon be coming through San Francisco Bay? Oracle has not cleaved savagely at the organizations it acquired, nor at the customers who came with them. Was everyone happy with the results? No, of course not--but how different was that from other acquisitions in this industry?

OK, I'll quote one more thing for the benefit of the Oracle AppsLab folks:

To its credit, Oracle realized that it needed to stop trying to build its own version of every technology out there. (Anyone remember Oracle PowerBrowser?)

Moving on, let's go to an observation from Ashlee Vance of the New York Times:

The drive to consolidate has made life difficult for independent companies like Sun, and the fall of such an industry stalwart highlights the mounting pressure on smaller firms in the computer, storage and software industries to find buyers. Even larger companies like EMC and Dell could be vulnerable, industry observers say.

Jeremiah Owyang links to Ray Wang:

Here’s how the stack looks:

* Middleware - While Java and Solaris may appear to be the crown jewels in the deal, Oracle has managed to slowly buy out other stack competitors (i.e. BEA and now Sun) and integrate them into the Fusion Middleware suite of tools for custom development and its own Fusion Applications product lines. Sun complements BEA.

* Database - Oracle takes out the low cost competitor to SQL server on the low end and gets a shot at converting them to Oracle DB instead of IBM.

* Hardware - Oracle gains another great recurring revenue (maintenance) base with Solaris. This complements Oracle’s large and profitable database installations on Solaris that would have fallen prey to the IBM DB2 team.

Meanwhile, Owyang has plenty to say himself, including his perspective on the Oracle community (see my prior post for Jeremiah's tweet on the topic):

Sun has a long history of being open, through their technology, executives that blog, and the thousands of employees that participate in one way or another in the social web. On the other hand, Oracle, which I observe to have a culture of top down management has been slower to embrace the social web. To their credit, in the last few years, they’ve hosted a Lunch 2.0, launched an innovation piece, a social network called Mix, and have a thriving community in OTN.

But then Owyang gets to the seven billion dollar question:

What happens next is what’s interesting. Will Oracle adopt some of the open Sun culture, will Larry start to participate in the direct conversations with the market? Will the Sun culture simply be wrapped under the red banners? Or will it end up like Peoplesoft, those that integrate well shuffle in line.

Rob Diana says a lot (don't we all?), so I'l highlight some of what he said about MySQL:

Oracle purchased an interesting business with MySQL. They can keep it open source, add on “premium” features that enterprise customers may want, and eventually push for upgrades to their enterprise offering of Oracle. In addition, they get some nice consulting and services deals out of this as well. If anything, this just makes Oracle’s database position much stronger. They have always had a problem getting smaller businesses to run on Oracle, and now they have something that almost anyone can run.

I'll end with Aaron Ricadela of BusinessWeek, who spoke about MySQL but concentrated on Java:

[T]he Java programming language, widely used to write much of the world's business software, is a key ingredient in Oracle's recipe for ensuring the many products it has already acquired work smoothly together. Java also runs on 800 million PCs and 2.1 billion mobile phones. PC makers and cell-phone vendors, including Nokia (NOK), pay royalties to license the software. "When you look at those numbers, they're enormous," Citigroup (C) analyst Brent Thill says of Java's potential. "Oracle looks at this and says, 'This could be a $1 billion business.'" Yet Java supplied just $220 million of Sun's $13.9 billion in 2008 revenue. "Java is the most valuable brand in software that has no value," says Joshua Greenbaum, principal of industry analysis firm Enterprise Applications Consulting.

So you have Java, from which you could potentially make more money, and you have MySQL, which provides a potential upgrade path which lets you make more money, and you have hardware, which could be bundled with your software to make more money.

This might work.

Unemployed in Manhattan? Tough.

The New York Times ran a piece comparing New York state unemployment benefits with those of other states.

Lose your job in Boston, Pittsburgh, Seattle or Trenton and you could collect $544 or more per week in unemployment benefits. But get laid off in New York City, as almost 200,000 workers have in the past year, and the most you can collect is $430 a week.

Despite its high cost of living, New York pays less to its unemployed than about two dozen other states, including all of its neighbors.

More here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Re-examining your communities from the outside (e.g. post Oracle-Sun)


If you're reading this blog, you've probably a member of one or more online communities. Maybe you have a set of friends on Facebook or MySpace or Twitter or FriendFeed or Scrine or some other service. Or maybe you've joined one or more communities that are dedicated to a particular topic. Jake Kuramoto has listed some of the communities related to Oracle OpenWorld 2009:

Seems like each year, there are more ways to keep tabs on the OpenWorld excitement, if the good old web page won’t do it for you. This year, there’s the OpenWorld blog , the OpenWorld wiki , a Facebook group , @oracleopenworld on Twitter, a LinkedIn group (if you’re the serious type), a YouTube channel , and the best for last, Oracle Mix group.

If you're interested, go to Jake's post and follow the links embedded in the post. I just joined the referenced Facebook group this morning.

Now if you ask people like Jake and myself (or Justin Kestelyn or Eddie Awad) about the Oracle communities, you'll hear the usual blathering from us about Oracle offering a lot of communities and we're all engaged and connected and undergoing self-realization on a higher plane, fully engaging our stacks in the process.

OK, that's what those of us within the community will say. But what about people who aren't in the community?

I was reading a FriendFeed thread about Oracle's planned acquisition of Sun and ran across a comment from Thom Allen, in response to some earth-shattering comment of mine.

John, that is the cool part about MySQL, and the other product they now have, Java. These are staples in so many dev shops, so they are also acquiring a huge community. Oracle has never really been a community engaged company. They will have a lot of voices coming at them. I hope they are prepared.

Of course, I had to cause trouble, so I let Justin Kestelyn (and others) know about Thom's view, via a FriendFeed item and an associated tweet.

So Justin joined the conversation. To date, the following exchange has taken place:

"Oracle has never really been a community engaged company" - on what facts is this statement based? Oracle has one of the largest and most active dev communities in the world. - Justin Kestelyn

Justin, I've never seen Oracle do anything to engage the community outside of its own customer base. Give us some examples and I'll stand corrected. - Thom Allen

Tune in here for further updates, if any.

It's probably one of these situations in which they're both right. From Justin's (and Jake's) perspective, Oracle has certainly been through acquisitions before, and has incorporated people from business intelligence, WebLogic, and other worlds into the communities that Jake mentioned.

But on the other hand, I wonder if Thom's right also. I've already shown that I don't have a complete grasp of Sun's offerings, but even I realize (or eventually realized) that there are three constituencies that need to be addressed: the hardware constituency, the Java constituency, and the MySQL constituency. I have no idea of the numbers in these groups, but the key point is that their focus is slightly different than the focus of Oracle users in the past. Even when BEA and others were dragged kicking and screaming into the Oracle world, it was pretty much an issue of substituting one company name for another.

But how will the hardware folks feel when they're part of a company whose roots are in software, and how will the Java and MySQL folks feel about the change? Some people resist change, and I've already seen some comments from people who don't like the idea of their favorite products being part of Oracle. Here's what Jeremiah Owyang said:

Oracle moves to acquire Sun. To me, those cultures are VERY different top down vs bottom up

Can these parties join into an Oracle community?


Oh yeah, Oracle acquired another database


In my early morning reaction to Oracle's proposed acquisition of Sun, I noted the following:

Perhaps Oracle has acquired a hardware vendor before and I've missed it, but this is still unusual. More importantly than hardware, however, Oracle now owns Java.

However, I forgot one other little aspect of the Oracle-Sun deal. In my FriendFeed comments on the New York Times article from which I originally quoted, Yuvi pointed out something that I had missed:

WAIT. So, Oracle now owns MySQL? haha haha HAHA!

And Tina offered this comment in her own feed:

The best part about Oracle buying Sun? In the future when people taunt me for using Oracle at work saying MySQL is a better product, I'll get the small joy of knowing that we're discussing two apples from the same tree...

Now this portion of the acquisition gets REALLY interesting.

Oracle's usual stance is to support competing technologies, even if they have their own technology in the area. So, for example, even though Oracle sells WebLogic, they support people who use JBOSS. Therefore, HP and Dell don't have to worry that Oracle will suddenly quit supporting their hardware - although I'm sure that Oracle will eventually come up with a low-end total system package that uses Sun rather than HP.

And Oracle does have some other database packages that they already sell, such as the Berkeley DB non-relational database and Oracle Database Lite. But how in the heck are they going to incorporate MySQL into their database offerings?

Oracle actually won't have to answer these questions for some time, since I'm sure that the deal still needs several approvals from government agencies. When I went to read the press release to get an estimate on deal completion, however, I got this statement:

Invalid Request - You are not authorized to login

Poking around at the URL, it turns out that this message appears when the server load is too busy. An embarrassing scalability FAIL for Oracle.


Payday loan consolidation?!?

Before I resume my all Oracle all the time coverage, I just want to note that I heard an interesting radio commercial on KLAC this morning - for PAYDAY loan consolidation. Basically, if you have two or more payday loans, there's a company that wants to help you.

What's next?

Hey you! If you have two or more loan sharks that have taken contracts out on your life, then The Boyzz Money is here to help you!

Oracle acquires Sun - even for Oracle, this is gutsy

I think this one surprised me even more than the announcement of the sale of my own division. New York Times:

The Oracle Corporation, the technology information company, announced Monday that it would acquire a rival, Sun Microsystems, for $9.50 a share, or about $7.4 billion.

More here. Oracle acquires businesses on a fairly regular basis, but this is one that definitely got my attention. Even the New York Times writer and editor were apparently flabbergasted by the deal:

Over the past few years, however, Oracle has moved to make Hewlett-Packs and Dell stronger allies, as Sun’s business has declined.

Hewlett-Packs. Heh. Do they only come with the Enterprise Edition?

Perhaps Oracle has acquired a hardware vendor before and I've missed it, but this is still unusual. More importantly than hardware, however, Oracle now owns Java.

This will take some absorbing to see where we end up after this deal closes.


Yes, there's algae on the plane. Why do you ask?

The economics of air travel were signficantly affected by the September 11th attack, but one thing has remained constant both before and after September 11 - you need fuel to make the planes run. BusinessWeek quoted from a Spiegel Online interview:

[T]he oil price has changed rapidly. But it has done that many times before and it will continue to do so. Even today, the highest operating expense for an airline is fuel. It remains a priority to find a way to mitigate that situation.

The interviewee, who is from Boeing, then talks about biofuels.

That is why Boeing is trying to open up this avenue of alternative fuel. It can help that situation while having a better environmental performance at the same time....

The first test flight was in February 2008. But more recently, in December 2008 and in January 2009, there were three test flights in quick succession with a higher blend of biofuel and better performance. We have already achieved quite a bit in terms of technical understanding and technical qualification.

The Spiegel Online interviewer then asked a critical question which needs to be asked of any plant-based alternative fuel source:

How do you plan to ensure that the crops needed for biofuel production do not endanger food production or contribute to deforestation?

The Boeing rep spoke of "sustainability criteria" and "avation-specific discussions."

But then the Spiegel Online rep got into the "how big is it" discussion.

[L]et us talk about algae. How big do these cultures need to be?

Boeing's response:

The optimists say, to supply the entire world with aviation fuel, you would perhaps need an area of the size of Belgium. We still need quite a bit of research and development work to really determine whether that is possible. So far, we are very pleasantly surprised by the innovation and the progress.

Let me clarify that they were just discussing an area the SIZE of Belgium - they WEREN'T talking about covering Belgium itself in algae.

However, Ariel Schwartz at FastCompany notes that you don't have to use exotic fuels to save money:

Air India, the country's national airline, has saved $9.26 million over six months with simple energy-saving techniques.

The airline has cut contingency fuel from 5% to 3% and decreased aircraft weight by reducing the amount of water, the weight of food carts, and the magazines on board....Air India also now flies in a straight line at optimal altitudes and speed, practices a "continuous descent" approach during landing, uses a single engine during taxiing, and derives pre-flight power from sources on the ground.

And they didn't need a Belgium-size fuel "plant" to do it.

And, as BusinessWeek notes, biofuels prices are volatile themselves. But, as the Riverside Press-Enterprise notes, there are more entrants into the market.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Virtual money?

From BusinessWeek:

The EMEA market for virtualisation software is likely to be very robust in 2009, with the market for hosted virtual desktops leading the field, according to analyst company Gartner.

However, the company warned that the global recession could temporarily halt even technologies designed to save businesses money.

More here.

New Flavia Packaging

So anyways, I took a stroll down to our office Flavia machine, and noticed that the packaging for some of the coffees had changed.

After further investigation, I discovered that packaging for all of the Flavia products has changed; we're probably just running through our old stocks for some of them.

Here's what I tried that afternoon, based solely on the package: Colombia.

As you can see by clicking the second image on Flavia's page, the packaging is an improvement over the old version, and actually shows the beans (and other items) in the coffee. And the logo has been modified also.

Incidentally, if you want to go to the Flavia coffee site, be sure to go to is a poster/greeting card company - which is nice, but doesn't quench your thirst.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another silo to compete with AP

Image from Stuck in Customs under a Creative Commons license

The New York Times ran this article:

Journalism Online Inc., aims to supply publishers with ready-made tools to charge Internet fees, an idea that has gained sudden currency as advertising revenue plummets, but whose prospects of success are doubted by many media analysts. The company, which says it may have a product ready by the fall, says the advantages it offers are that publishers would not have to develop their own systems, and readers could use a single system for many different publications.

I'm sure that many pooh-pooh the idea, since sites such as Google and FriendFeed serve as "a single system," and people can create their own "single system" by subscribing to a range of feeds or creating a personal Alltop (see Louis Gray's Alltop) or MeeHive (see Kol Tregaskes' hive). However, remember that the majority of the population is by definition NOT early adopters, and a single website that provides access to a number of publications may sound attractive.

But will people pay for it?

As the company envisions the system, a non-paying reader on a magazine or newspaper site would reach a certain point and see a page asking for payment — the Journalism Online system, operating within the publication’s Web site. But a reader who wanted a subscription to multiple sites would go directly to the new company’s own site.

“The most important thing is it’s simple to use,” Mr. Brill said in an interview. “Much of the barrier to charging online is the transaction friction, as opposed to the actual cost. With this system, you’d have a single password, give your credit number just once.”

He said that for the unlimited subscriptions, “we’re playing with a figure of $15 a month.”

Oh, and anyone else who wanted access to the content would also have to pay:

The company also plans to negotiate licensing and royalty fees with search engines and news aggregators for the use of the publications’ work, and has retained Mr. Boies’ law firm, Boies Schiller & Flexner, for that work. That parallels a recent announcement by The Associated Press that it, too, planned to pursue unlicensed use of published material.

And, regarding the AP "four-word" brouhaha to which I've referred on occasion:

Experts say that it is not clear what legal recourse publishers have against major sites that simply cite articles and provide links to them, rather than reproducing them.

Which reminds me - for more information, the New York Times article is here, if you want more information.

Announcing the "Natural User Interface" group (room) on FriendFeed

In case you haven't figured this out already, much of my blogging and other writing is devoted to things I know nothing about. Since, as I say, "I am not trendy," there are a lot of things that I know nothing about. My blogging/writing is often the process that I use to learn about these things.

So anyways, this morning I was approached by one of my co-workers who asked me if I was familiar with the term "NUI." I wasn't. The co-worker then explained that "NUI" stood for "natural user interface," then gave me a quick thumbnail sketch of the idea.

Obviously this sounded like something that I should educate myself about, but how? I decided that this would be a good job for a FriendFeed group (also known as a room), for the following reasons:
  • FriendFeed would allow me to create self-populating feeds that were relevant to the topic at hand.

  • FriendFeed would allow me to share other items that I found that were relevant to the topic.

  • FriendFeed would allow me to collaborate with others who knew more about the topic than I did, and/or wanted to learn more about the topic.
As you can gather, this is very different from the lastfmfeeds group/room that I set up some time ago. That group/room is purely recreational (although it provides a source of information for my Empoprise-MU music blog). This natural user interface group/room, while it could be recreational for those who are merely curious, could also serve business purposes, both for people who hawk NUI solutions, and for those who wish to adopt them.

So I went ahead and populated the room, added a few feeds from places such as the NUI Group and the Microsoft Surface project, and manually posted a couple [1] [2] of YouTube videos that touched on the subject.

The next step is to evangelize the group, which is why I have written this post (and am doing some other related activities). If you have any knowledge or interest in natural user interfaces, I strongly urge you to join the group, read the group, and contribute to the group.

This post is being written while the April 2009 FriendFeed beta is still in progress. At this time, there are two URLs for the group, depending upon whether or not you are actively using the FriendFeed beta.

FriendFeed beta users can access the group via the URL.

If the FriendFeed beta makes you sick, you can access this as a traditional FriendFeed room via the URL.

I'm not sure how these URLs will resolve when the beta becomes the standard for FriendFeed - if you're reading this message after the beta and the two URLs above don't work, try and see what happens.

Again, I strongly encourage you to join the group, whether you're part of the large group who knows more than me about natural user interfaces, or the small group who knows even less than me on the topic.

If you have a Roy, find a Walt (and vice versa)

I've been thinking about Disney lately - especially about a personal link between Disney behavior and Amazon behavior, but I still have to write that post. At this point, suffice it to say that while Disney has often been criticized, it is more often than not held up as a standard to which many companies aspire. Disney's intense devotion to customer service is only outpaced by its fanatical commitment, for good or ill, to maintaining its brand against all enemies, real or imagined.

G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón recently wrote a BusinessWeek article entitled "Are You a Walt Disney or a Roy Disney?". A brief excerpt:

[T]he next time you are marveling at the wonders of Disney (DIS), make sure you remember Roy. While Walt was dreaming about his Magic Kingdom and making a mouse talk, his brother Roy was actually making sure that Walt's dreams would come true. Roy was the operational genius; a yin for Walt's yang.

If you read the entire BusinessWeek article, you see that Maddock and Vitón not only state that both Walts and Roys are needed, but that entities that have one group in-house recognize this, and work with groups of the other kind. For example:

Venture capital companies are full of Roy Disneys, and they know it, so they don't waste time trying to think up new ideas. They know what they are good at and go do it.

Makes sense. For every Steve Wozniak who comes up with an insane idea, you need a Mike Markkula to help him deliver it. This is what Woz said:

The few of us that made up Apple at this time were all there to meet people and show them what we had. Mike Markkula talked to store owners and gave them legal paperwork to establish accounts with us and start ordering. We were a rare company at this time to even have such a professional approach. Almost all the companies had amateur technologies and amateur business practices.

So, are you a Walt, or a Roy?

Train simulation, a factory,and forgotten profiles

Image from Thomas Hawk under a Creative Commons license

I am a strong advocate of never deleting a profile from any social media or other publicly accessible website. My reason? Because once a popular profile disappears, someone else - usually a spammer - steps in and appropriates the profile name. I've known of at least two blogs that were deleted by their owners and subsequently became spam traps.

That having been said, many of us have a lot of old profiles out there. I obtained my first publicly-accessible system account in 1979 (Reed College was one of the early nodes in what became USENET), and I've probably created dozens upon dozens (if not hundreds) of profiles in the last thirty years.

Recently, when I was doing an ego search, I remembered that I have an Amazon profile, and that my wish list was publicly accessible. After making a few deletions to said wish list (I really don't want to publicize my clothing sizes), I began searching around for Amazon profiles for other people. And I ran across this one. Here's an excerpt:

In My Own Words:

I run the MSN Train Simulator Fan Site at inSimulatorFanSite -- come and visit us!

And when you click through, the user only had one review, and it was (as expected) a review of MSN Train Simulator. It was actually a joint review, conducted by the Amazon member and his (then) six-year old son.

That review was written on March 27, 2001. Time has passed, and the MSN Train Simulator Fan Site no longer exists. Interestingly enough, the reviewer actually joined Microsoft as an employee a couple of years later, then eventually left and worked for some other tech firms. I can't recall him ever saying anything about trains, although it turns out that he did write about trains in general, and Train Simulator in particular, in a 2007 post in his blog. (Yeah, he's a blogger, although he spends more time on FriendFeed.)

There are two variables at work here - the time variable, and the service variable. Back in 2001, the reviewer chose to present himself to Amazon users in this way. In other forums, and at other times, he's probably choose to accentuate other aspects of his interests and passions.

In some cases, our interests change over time. As Steven Hodson has noted:

People change, people grow.

In his case, his interests have changed dramatically:

(Hodson's blog) WinExtra no longer was relevant to what I wanted to do. After all WinExtra was always intended to be a Windows and Microsoft related opinion and resource blog, but as it was turning out this was no longer even representative of where I was – or where I wanted to go.

(And, by the way, Steven Hodson has an Amazon profile also, a profile which also appeared to be dated.)

But however much we change, some things stay the same. I don't think I've ever publicly linked to this before, but I've mentioned it in several presentations that I've given. This is my 1982 review of the Wall of Voodoo album "Call of the West," posted to net.records:

Newsgroups: net.records
Path: utzoo!decvax!cca!hplabs!hao!menlo70!sytek!zehntel!teklabs!reed!bred@sri-unix
X-Path: utzoo!decvax!cca!hplabs!hao!menlo70!sytek!zehntel!teklabs!reed!bred@sri-unix
From: bred@sri-unix
Date: Thu Nov 18 10:19:00 1982
Subject: Wall of Voodoo album
Posted: Sun Nov 14 23:46:25 1982
Received: Thu Nov 18 10:19:00 1982

Just bought Wall of Voodoo's latest album "Call of the West"
(I.R.S.) a few weeks ago. The group uses synthesizers, etc.
while still maintaining a western American feel both in music and
lyrics (such as the lyrics in "Lost Weekend", about a couple who
just lost their life savings in Las Vegas, and "Factory", about a
factory worker). I'm not sure whether the album's being played
on many radio stations, having only heard it on Reed College's
(Portland OR) radio station KRRC. Wall of Voodoo has recorded at
least one other album, "Dark Continent", but I haven't listened
to it yet.

Questions: has anyone else heard this album or the previous one?
Opinions? How long has Wall of Voodoo been around?

John Bredehoft (...!teklabs!reed!bred)

P.S. At least one other person likes this album; the KRRC copy
has mysteriously disappeared...

I still love "Lost Weekend" and "Factory," over a quarter century later.

And these old profiles carry us back to an innocent time when "decvax" and "hplabs" were completely separate entities...and back when a "train simulator" would have graphics that looked like "########"...